Addicted To Tanning? Study Says It Might Be In Your Genes

While there are those of us who shun the sun and it’s potential to tan skin into a hue other than scariest white, some people find themselves craving the sun’s rays or seeking to get their Vitamin D fix in tanning beds. Those addicts seeking a fix every day could be driven by genetics, a new study says.

Being “addicted” to tanning means getting a feel good sensation in the brain, or as it’s known, a high. The study by a senior research scientist at the Yale Cancer Center (via USA Today’s college portal) whose those high and lows that come with tanning dependence is more about the genes than the person lying in the UV bed every day.

“We were interested in tanning, particularly indoor tanning, because of the increase of young people who were getting skin cancer at least in part because of it,” says Brenda Cartmel. “Dermatologists for years have never seen this type of cancer and now they do quite a lot.”

The 292 participants in the study included 79 who showed signs of being addicted to tanning, while others tanned but weren’t showing signs of addiction. After analyzing everyone’s DNA, one variation of a certeain gene stood out in the first group over the second. The gene’s function isn’t known yet, but researchers know that the proteins it codes for are found mainly in the brain.

“We were a little surprised because it was not a gene we had hypothesized that might be affiliated with a tanning dependence,” Cartmel says, while admitting that the limited participant group isn’t broad enough to make a conclusion about tanning and genetics. Further studies could use her work as a starting place, however, and eventually lead to methods of treatment for any addiction.

Almost 30 million people tan indoors every year, says the Skin Cancer Foundation, with teens making up two to three million of those people. Some states are moving to prevent teenagers from tanning inside, however, with nine states and D.C. having bans in place to keep minors from using UV beds. Other states require parental consent.

But don’t go around bragging that you can’t help getting bronze day after day, as it’s unlikely most people are actually addicted.

“There is a small percentage of the population that gets addicted [to tanning],” says Cartmel. “Ultimately, we hope that we might be able to develop new interventions that would help those people.”

“Our ultimate goal is to encourage people not to use indoor tanning, and use protective measures when they’re outside,” she adds.

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